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RoboCop: Rogue City Demo Big

As I set out to play the 160 GB demo of RoboCop: Rogue City that I installed last night (it appears to have since shrunk to 30 GB, suggesting perhaps the entire game had been uploaded initially), Steam informed me that it first needed to add a quick 34 GB patch. At which point I kissed my uncapped internet contract on the lips. Although after playing this enormous demo for a couple of hours, I’m not entirely sure it was worth it.

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Set between the events of RoboCop 2 and 3, RoboCop: Rogue City feels rather ignominious purely by its chosen setting. The original 1987 movie is an all-time classic piece of satire, its deadpan, ultra-violent depiction of police brutality woefully misunderstood for the last 35 years, including by its own sequels. So a first-person shooter-RPG is a concerning prospect, especially after suffering through similar gaming attempts adapting director Paul Verhoeven’s other masterful satire, Starship Troopers.

Yet, on playing this deeply peculiar game, I’m still not entirely sure which way it’s leaning. It’s immediately visually impressive, with meticulously detailed grimy streets, reflective puddles, and a very shiny Robo-helmet. It’s then immediately contradicted by low-poly faces on other characters, and some absolutely dreadful lip-syncing, combined with the flattest acting I’ve seen in forever.

And yes, that includes from Peter Weller, who has improbably returned to voice the titular metal officer for this game. Now 76, the actor delivers his very many lines like a man reading a shopping list over the phone, giving the entire affair a very uncanny feeling. It’s the right voice, but it’s not the right voice.

The demo is absolutely enormous, and I’ve had to stop playing in order to write this before I run out of daylight. It’s also not exactly…good. It’s not terrible, at all, and as a shooter you get to stomp about blowing off punks’ heads with satisfying weapons. But there’s also not a single thing about it that’s impressive.

Enemies just stand still while you shoot them, occasionally throwing tiresome grenades at you, giving the whole thing the feeling of a particularly spiteful target range. RoboCop takes damage, unless it’s a cutscene when the bullets just bounce off him, but you can press H any time to magically get better. And best of all, for reasons entirely unexplained, the baddies keep the specialist, bespoke recharging units unique to this robot lying around their drug dens, which is particularly generous.

The demo gives you an opening mission, then has you literally doing paperwork at Police HQ, before setting you out into its semi-open world. Here you’re given a main quest to follow, but a surprising number of side-quests pop up, one involving solving a murder by visiting various areas of the city, another recovering a stolen car, each with voiced characters and mini storylines. It’s an awful lot of game for a demo, to be sure.

The main plot is an unwieldy and meandering story about drug dealers and maybe a missing cop, all referencing a new kingpin-like character who’s moved into town. But in the end, all these quests boil down to walking to the next marker on the map, watching the conversations, and then shooting more baddies in their ‘80s haircuts.

It suggests a game with a lot of scale, but not much scope. It’s very RoboCop, with all sorts of recognizable characters, in the familiar Detroit, but it’s fairly incoherent on whether it’s trying to say anything. It couldn’t be a timelier moment for an ACAB-themed re-examination of the franchise, and but so far the demo doesn’t suggest these themes: rather just driving down the worn-deep tracks of ‘80s cop movie tropes.

But if your internet is limited, it’s fairly safe to say don’t be wasting almost 150 gigabytes on this. You could always play developer Teyon’s previous game, Terminator: Resistance, instead.

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